Wednesday, May 3, 2017
The Relativity of Knowledge; Spiritual Cosmology
The Living Gifts of Anthroposophy. Lecture 2 of 7.
Rudolf Steiner, Berlin, April 1, 1918:
When I tried in the last lecture to explain the influence exercised on man by the part of the Earth on which he as physical man develops, I had chiefly in mind to point out very distinctly that the whole Earth is an organism, an ensouled organism, permeated by spirit. For, as an organism has its separate, distinct differentiated members, each of which has a special task, — the arms have not the task of the legs, nor the heart that of the brain, and so on, if we consider the Earth as one whole, as in ensouled organism permeated by spirit, each part of the Earth has its own special task. The special task of the separate human organic members is perceptible in the form of these separate members. The arms are formed differently from the legs, the heart from the brain. This difference is not so marked as regards the Earth with respect to the physical. To an external materialistic geographer, who observes the separate continents or any other parts of the Earth arranged according to this or that point of view, it does not occur straight away that these different parts of the Earth have different sorts of activity; that only occurs to one who can, to a certain extent, grasp the nature of the psychic and spiritual element of the Earth. To understand this, really signifies rising concretely to the perception that the Earth is an ensouled, spiritual organism, and that man, living on Earth as physical man, is a member of this organism. All kinds of questions arise if one takes this into account, and he looks at the life of man as if it only ran its course once between birth and death, will not come to any very reasonable conclusions about them. For man, as physical man, can indeed only become a member of a particular part of the Earth. He would therefore be condemned to be quite specialized and differentiated by this particular part of the Earth, and would in a sense not be able to be in any way a complete whole, but only a part of the Earth's organism. On the other hand an important discovery results from this insight into the ensouled spiritualized part of the Earth; the discovery that the real deep or being of man, to which he says “I,” can in the real sense, only be connected indirectly with this differentiation of man over the Earth, that's the psycho-spiritual kernel of man's being in a sense only dwells in what is us specialized through the peculiarity of the Earth. Thus man can obtain, from this very circumstance, the knowledge that his spiritual-psychic kernel cannot subsist in what immediately confronts us in man; that with which, in a sense, man confronts us, can only be the “dwelling place,” the dwelling place of man determined by virtue of the special circumstances of the Earth. I do not mention this because it might appear to those already acquainted with spiritual science as a very weighty truth; of course it cannot be that. But it is to show that a real searching into and pondering over the relationships of the Earth can lead man to build himself up in spiritual science, by this means, in a purely logical manner. For the belief that Spiritual Science can only be comprehensible to one who sees into the spiritual world, must be swept away as one of the most fatal prejudices. This is a prejudice which has over and over again to be taken into account. I might say, for the satisfaction of all the comfort-loving ones who, because they like to believe that they could never acquire clairvoyant cognition, would like to represent Spiritual Science chiefly as a kind of provisional arrangement, or as something which does not concern mankind at all, that in truth, comprehensive, penetrating thought can really understand the spiritually scientific. Only the thought must be really accurate and comprehensive! It must be prepared to relate the phenomena of life to what Spiritual Science confirms. He who brings what is within his grasp in the way of knowledge of the characteristic traits of the different nations of the Earth, and of the different inhabitants of the Earth, to bear upon what Spiritual Science says, will soon acknowledge that what was here explained in the last lecture is verified. We must really relate what life offers to this knowledge; we must be ready to test, free from prejudice, the teachings of Spiritual Science by the experience of life; then a reasonable penetration of the matter will lead to the acknowledgment of Spiritual Science.
It is very important to emphasize this at the present day. For we may say that traditions, containing many of the truths of Spiritual Science, are far more numerous than is usually believed. There is a certain opinion, however, which was fully justified up to the approach of the recent historical age — but which has also been propagated in our own times by many who possess Spiritual Scientific knowledge — the opinion that one should not communicate publicly certain deeper knowledge about life. I have often explained the reasons which people who know something of these things have, for thus withholding these communications, and I have also pointed out why these reasons no longer hold good at the present day. In a certain respect however these facts present a difficulty. For not only have we the opposition to Spiritual Science of by far the greatest part of mankind to contend with, but we also have to contend with the opinion of those who do know something; — the opinion that one who gives publicity to things which come from the fountain of Spiritual Science as one gives publicity to other truths, is wrong. Those who believe that the veil of secrecy over certain things must not be raised, will be healed of this error when they recognize the importance of what has been said, certainly in a somewhat scientific form, but clearly enough, it seems to me, in the foreword and introduction to my book “Riddles of Man.”
It is necessary to comprehend that the conception of truth and righteousness which most men still have today, will indeed have to be overcome. Most men have the idea: One thing is right — and another is wrong. But I must emphasize the fact over and over again, and have also done so more particularly in the preface to “Riddles of Man,” the man's separate view of things from one particular side is like a photograph of an object from one side only. If one photographs a tree, first from the one side and then another, the second picture is still a picture of the same tree, only it looks different. Now today, when men have become so very abstract, when they have become so accustomed to the theoretical, in spite of believing themselves to be men of reality, one view of a thing is reckoned at us all-comprehensive, as comprising the whole reality. People believe that it is possible to express reality in thoughts — or in something else. They are particularly arrogant in this belief of being able to express the reality by means of thought. I mean the “arrogant” somewhat in the following sense. People say, “We today have the Copernican world-conception ... but with regard to the men who lived before Copernicus (this is not expressed so abruptly, but still they think it) they were all children (indeed we might say ‘duffers’), for they did not yet have the Copernican world-conception. That alone is correct, all the other world-conceptions are false.” This is an attitude which must be overcome. Even the Copernican world-conception is just one view, it is one definite way of making pictures, thoughts and ideas of things. Certainly there are men to-day, who oppose Spiritual Science as soon as they observe that it gives one a view, a real and regular view of a thing, by placing something else in opposition to it. No one will contest this who knows that there are different points of view about a thing. Today, however, many people wish for something else, something quite special, which may be compared somewhat to the person in the room saying: “When we have lighted up the room from one point and look at it from there, this gives only the view in perspective; it is not the reality; let us turn out the light and make the room quite dark and touch everything separately, then all who have thus touched the things will have the same opinion.” We all know that when we look at the room in the light, one who stands there has this view, and another who stands somewhere else has that view and so on. So today certain ideal of natural science would be to turn out the light and only ‘touch’ everything. Spiritual Science must certainly “turn the light” on to that. Thus the different points of view implies something surveyed from different places.
Now more especially by us should the effort be made to go about trying to form opinions from different points of view. This has already been striven after for many years. Many might object that the one contradicts the other, but that is precisely the essential thing, that in the above-mentioned sense of view should contradict another; for thereby we get an all-round view of a thing, which is what we want. But this is not at all easy, or people would prefer to have a little book, as slender as possible, in which a whole world-philosophy is tabulated. Or, if they wish to have world-philosophies discussed, they would like to have the same thing reeled off, over and over again. Of course this cannot be. Our printed cycles are increasing, are becoming more and more numerous, so that things may be illuminated from different sides, that we may obtain concepts and views from various sides, which only then give a complete picture of reality. We must certainly offend people in a certain respect (and what has just been said will make this comprehensible to you) if we have to repudiate more and more the accepted prejudices, by the truths of Spiritual Science. But chiefly when we thus ‘sin’ against the demand of certain occultists notched to communicate important things publicly, we must speak about things which shock people, perhaps even anger and excite them; for these things, like many others, give offense for instance to all those who say that things can only be ‘correct’ or ‘incorrect.’ Rather must we acquire the view that in the successive stages of the evolution of mankind there can never be a condition in which one can really say: “Now we have the absolute truth in regard to any particular matter for thought,” or: “We now know, what is absolute untruth.” There cannot be absolute truth or absolute truth. Searching great conceptions of life do not originate in order at last to give men what is ‘correct,’ so that they may now look arrogantly upon their forefathers as upon children; they spring up from very different reasons.
Let us call to mind something we all know. In the 15th century of our era, mankind entered the fifth cultural epoch of the Post-Atlantean development, which we call that of the “development of the human Consciousness or Spiritual Soul.” What especially appeared in the fifth cultural epoch began with the 15th century A.D. Till then it was the Intellectual or Rational Soul which, in the course of the cultural development of mankind was specially developed. In order then that the Spiritual Soul might arise, certain thoughts, certain kinds of concepts, took on a quite distinct character. Not because the Copernican world-philosophy is the absolutely correct one — I have affirmed often enough that it had to appear; and that in a certain respect it is the right one for us in accordance with the times I shall declare again and again — not because it is the absolutely correct one did it appear, but because it serves the evolution of man, in that he can best attain the development of the Spiritual Soul if he allows the Copernican world-philosophy to enter his flesh and blood, if he reaches the point of being able to calculate certain constellations of stars through the Copernican world-philosophy, as has been done in more recent times.
What is then really good in the Copernican world-philosophy? Not that at last it has told us the truth in contradistinction to the ‘untruth’ of former centuries, but that it erected a spiritual wall between Earth and Heaven, between the physical world and the spiritual world. Of course this appears frightfully paradoxical, something which excites opposition as a matter of course among those who have the above-mentioned prejudices. But it is true that man has begun to conceive the circumference, a cosmic circumference of the Earth in the Copernican manner, in that by transferring the Copernican conceptions into the circumference of the Earth, he has constructed this spiritual wall which he cannot get through. He is cut off from the spiritual thereby, and can remain with his concepts limited to the environs of the Earth, and there he develops the Spiritual Soul. Thus, in order that man should limit himself as ‘egotistically’ as possible to what is earthly, the Copernican world-philosophy, which erects its virtual wall around the Earth, fell to his lot. The more completely the Copernican world-philosophy is developed, and more certain is it that, through external perception, man is cut off from the spiritual world; but it also becomes the more necessary that he should again through inner perception, and by animating his inner life, find the connection with the spiritual. Remarkable things, very remarkable things run parallel. When such things are uttered, it is rather difficult to follow them, but if in the whole wide world there are none but the anthroposophists to understand them, they must take all the more trouble to do so.
There exists today a something like a “Theory of Knowledge;” that particular philosophical science which is based on Kant is called “Theory of Knowledge.” Yet this theory of knowledge is really — one might say — a nail in the coffin of human knowledge. Take a main thought about the ordinary theory of knowledge which as a rule runs in the minds of people today. It is said: Over there is an object: but what is out there is really only the vibration of ether, it has nothing to do with color or sound but is the movement of the smallest particles in space. The air moves out there, soundless; these concussions of the air approach our ear, — Schopenhauer spoke somewhat disrespectfully of the theory of knowledge, he said that these concussions ‘drum’ on the ear — and afterwards become what we call ‘sound.’ All is silent without, there are merely ‘concussions’ in the air. Then there are waves of ether outside. They strike upon the eye. But the matter does not end there; the waves strike upon the eye and the image is produced on the retina. Man knows nothing of this image, however, until it is investigated by science. The processes continue further with the optic nerve. These can only be of a material nature however; they go as far as the membrane covering the brain and there a quite mysterious process takes place. Then the soul comes in to make a concept of what is outside, of what is ‘dark and silent,’ a shining and colored concept, a warm and cold concept and so on; it creates the objects there within itself, and ‘dreams’ the whole world.
It is very remarkable that that is the road along which the Theory of Knowledge would penetrate from the external material world to the human spirit. But what is really the substance of this Theory of Knowledge? It is strange: if one remains at the things which have sound and color (the Theory of Knowledge calls what uneducated people believe ‘simple realism’), then at least one has a resounding and a colored world. But now, through the Theory of Knowledge, one brings this world for example before one's eyes. One has the image on the retina; within one has only the continuation of the image in the workings on the optic nerve; in the cerebrum there is nothing of the outer world, but the inner being charms forth the whole world again from the ‘vibrations.’ This makes one feel it is Baron Münchhausen again drawing himself up by his own tuft of hair! First, everything is eliminated and one has nothing left but brain-vibrations; and afterwards the soul recreates the outer world which has first been put away; then like Münchhausen, one lays hold of oneself by one's own tuft of hair and draws oneself up. But this is ‘basic philosophical knowledge,’ anyone who has not this, does not stand at the height of present-day knowledge.
If we try to follow up the whole diversified world as far as man himself, what have we finally? The processes in the membrane covering the cerebrum are not nearly as complicated as those in the optic nerve; they are the simplest of all. If we investigate how the world is in man we come to something extremely simple. We look for the spirit, but yet only come to a spirit which ‘dreams’ the world. There we must make a leap for so far no one has succeeded in distilling the spirit. In the quest of the spirit we come first to the brain vibrations, and we must then make something, which is nothing. This is the method science has followed in order to get to the spirit from the external sense-world.
On the earth we have many different conditions of life, and of life-influences, before the manifold variety of which we stand in respect and awe. Then we observe the difference in human beings in the different parts of the world — no matter whether the individual human characters are sympathetic or unsympathetic to us — if we consider the differentiations in mankind, we find that it is really as diversified as the sense-world outside is in its relation to man. In that bygone period in which the so-called childish ‘duffers’ lived, men try to understand the multiplicity of the Earth by rising to Heaven, by rising from the sensible to the spiritual. This they no longer do today. As we ascend farther and farther away from the diversified Earth, we have the same feeling as if we were coming from the external sense-world to the human Spirit through the eye and the brain; we come to what Copernicanism represents to us as the great Spiritual Cosmos. Just as the physiological theory of knowledge adopted the method of erecting a barrier in the vibrations of the brain in order to avoid coming to the human soul by way of the outer world, so in the same way does Copernicanism board up the world spiritually in the direction of the spiritual world. If we wish to realize the value of a world-conception we must know the point of view from which it is conceived. The point of view of Copernicanism does not pretend to place the true in the place of the false, once and for all; but it ‘boards up the world with planks’ so that man shall cultivate his consciousness soul within this ‘earthly tenement.’ This is the secret of the matter. We must look at these things in cold blood and with energy. We must first be able to shatter in our own selves that on which the easy-going people, who accept the world-philosophies of today, believe themselves to stand so firmly. As long as we are not able to shatter this in ourselves, as long as we are not able to see that really through Copernicanism the world is ‘boarded up with planks’ — so long shall we not reach the point of acquiring a relationship to Spiritual Science, for which many things are necessary.
Just imagine for a moment what the Cosmos consists of, apart from the Earth. According to the Copernican world-conception, it is a calculation! It can never be that to Spiritual Science but something that presents itself to spiritual cognition. Why have we a geology which believes that the Earth has only evolved from the purely mineral world? Because the Copernican world-conception has to produce the present-day materialistic geology. For it has nothing in itself which could prove that the Earth, from the point of view of the Cosmos or spiritual world, might be conceived as an ensouled, spiritualized being. A universe as conceived by Copernicus could only be a dead Earth! An animated ensouled and spiritualized Earth must be conceived as coming from a different Cosmos, really from quite another Cosmos from that of Copernicus. But of course one can only mention a few features of the Earth's being, as it appears when viewed from the Cosmos
Is it a quite unreal conception to imagine the Earth's being as coming from the Cosmos? It is no unreal conception, it is a very ‘real’ one. A conception which, for example, once existed in the imagination of Herman Grimm, but he excused himself immediately after having written it. In an essay written in 1858 he says: “One might imagine — (but he immediately adds: I am not presenting an article of faith, this is only a fancy picture) — that when the soul of man is freed from the body it moves around the Earth freely in the Cosmos and that in this free movement it would observe the Earth from the outside; what happens on the Earth would then appear to man in quite another light.” That was the fancy of Hermann Grimm.‘Man would become acquainted with all occurrences from a different point of view. For instance he would look into the human heart “as into a glass beehive.’ The thoughts arising in the human heart would spring up as from a glass bee-hive!” That is a fine picture. And he pictured further that this man who had hovered around the Earth for a time, and had looked at it from the outside, now reincarnated on the Earth. He would have a Father and Mother, a Fatherland and everything usual on the Earth, and would have to forget everything he had experienced from another point of view. And if he were perhaps an historian in the sense of today (Hermann Grimm is here describing from a subjective point of view) he could not then do otherwise then forget what went before, for one cannot write history with the other concepts.
This is a fancy which comes very close to the truth. For it is absolutely true that the human soul between death and rebirth is, as it were, floating around the Earth, and — as I have often depicted — conditioned by karmic relations, it looks down upon the Earth. The soul that has altogether the feeling that this Earth is an ensouled and spiritualized organism — and the prejudice that considers it as something without soul, something purely geological, ceases. And then the Earth becomes very greatly differentiated; to man's perception between death and rebirth it becomes so differentiated that in fact the East looks different from the American West. It is not possible to speak about the Earth to the dead, as one would to geologists; for the dead do not understand the geological conceptions. But they know that looking down from cosmic space at the East — from Asia across into Russia — the Earth appears as if covered with a bluey sheen; blue or bluish-mauve. Thus does that side of the Earth appear, seen from cosmic space. When we come towards the Western Hemisphere, to the American side, it then appears as more or less a fiery red. There we have a polarity of the Earth, as seen from the Cosmos. Of course the Copernican world-conception cannot of itself give this; but it is another perception, from a different point of view. It will be comprehensible to anyone who has this point of view, that this Earth, this ensouled Earth-organism, appears different in its Eeastern half from its Western half, when viewed from outside. In its Eastern half it has a blue covering, in its Western it has something like a flashing-forth from within outwards; hence the fiery red seen externally. Here you have one example by which man between death and rebirth can direct himself by what he then learns. He learns to know the configuration of the Earth, it's a different appearance when seen from the Cosmos and the spiritual world; he learns to realize that on one side it is bluish-violet, on the other fiery red. And in accordance always with the spiritual needs which he will develop from his karma, this knowledge decides for him where he will reincarnate. Of course one must imagine things as being much more complicated than this; but from such conditions does man between death and rebirth, develop the forces which occasion him to reincarnate in a child body having a certain inheritance.
I have only mentioned two modifications of color, but there are of course other modifications besides those of color, many others. For the present I will only mention that in the center between the East and the West, for example, in our regions, the Earth is more of a green shade when seen from outside. So that this gives us a three-foldness which can throw a deal of light on the way in which man can determine, by what he beholds between death and rebirth, whether he is to appear in the East or West or elsewhere on the Earth.
If we bear this in mind we shall gradually gain the idea that in the relations between the man incarnated here in the physical body and the discarnate man, certain things come into play which, for the most part, are not taken into consideration at all. If we go into a foreign land and wish to understand the people, we must learn their language. If we wish to understand the dead you must gradually acquire the language of the dead. But this is at the same time the language of Spiritual Science, for it is spoken by all the so-called living and all of the so-called dead. It is this which passes to and fro between us and the beyond. It is particularly important to acquire pictures such as these of the universe, and not mere abstract concepts. We get a picture of the Earth if we imagine a sphere hovering in space, on the one side glowing bluish-mauve, on the other burning a flashing reddish-yellow, and between these a green zone. Pictorial representations gradually carry man over into the spiritual world. That is the point. One is of course obliged to set up pictorial representations when speaking seriously of the spiritual world, and it is further necessary not merely to think of such pictorial representations as a sort of fiction, but to make something out of them. Let us once again recall the bluish-violet glimmering Orient and the reddish-yellow flashing Occident. Here various differentiations come in. When a dead person in our present era observe certain places, then from the place which here on Earth is known as Palestine, as Jerusalem, something with a golden form, a golden crystal form, is to be seen in the middle of the bluish-mauve color and this becomes animated. That is the Jerusalem as seen from the spirit! This it is which also in the Apocalypse (speaking of imaginative conceptions) figures as the heavenly Jerusalem. These are not ‘thought-out’ things, they are things which can be observed, seen spiritually. The Mystery of Golgotha appeared like what physical observation precedes when the astronomer directs his telescope to space and beholds something which fills him with wonder like, for example the flashing-up of new stars. Seen spiritually, from the Universe, the Event of Golgotha was the flashing-up of a star of gold in the blue aura of the Eastern half of the Earth. Here you have the Imagination for what I developed at the close of my lecture the day before yesterday. It is really a question of acquiring, by means of such Imaginations, ideas of the Universe which bring the human soul into union with the Spirit of the Universe.
Try to think with someone who has passed over, of the crystal form of the heavenly Jerusalem building itself up into golden splendor in the bluish-violet aura of the Earth, and that will bring you near to him; for that is something which belongs to the realm of the Imaginations into which she entered at death: “Out of God we are born, and in Christ we die.”
There are means by which we can shut ourselves off from the spiritual reality and there are means by which we can draw near to it. We can shut ourselves off from spiritual reality by trying to ‘calculate’ it. Certainly mathematics do belong to the realm of the spirit, pure spirit; but in their application to physical reality they are the means of cutting us off from the spiritual. In so far as you calculate, just so far do you cut yourself off from the spirit. Kant once said: “There is just the same amount of science in the world as there is mathematics.” But one might also say, from the other point of view, which is equally justifiable, that there is darkness in the world to the same degree as man has succeeded in judging the world by means of calculation. We approached the spiritual life when we press on from external perception, and particularly from abstract concepts, towards Imaginations, to pictorial ideas. Copernicus has led man to calculate the universe; the opposite perception must lead men once more again to picture the universe, to imagine a universe with which the human soul can identify itself, so that the Earth appears as an organism shining into the universe, blue-violet, with the heavenly Jerusalem radiating golden light on the one side, and the yellowish-red flashing on the other side.
Whence comes the blue-violet on the one side of the Earth-aura? When one sees this side of the Earth-sphere, the physical part of the Earth disappears from external view, the aura of light becomes transparent, and the dark part of the Earth disappears. This creates the blue which penetrates through. You can explain the phenomenon from Goethe's theory of color. But because in the Western Hemisphere the inner part of the Earth flashes up — flashes up anyway which verifies what I described the day before yesterday: namely, that in America man is determined by the subterranean element, by what is under the Earth — for that reason the inner part of the Earth rays out and flashes like a red-yellow shimmer, like a reddish-yellow sparkling fire radiating into the Cosmos. This is only meant to be a picture sketched in quite fine outlines, but it should show you that it is indeed possible to speak, not merely in ordinary abstract thoughts, but in very, very concrete concepts about the world in which we live between death and rebirth. Finally, all this is adapted to prepare our souls to obtain a connection with the spiritual world, with the higher Hierarchies; with that world in which man lives between death and rebirth. But I intend to speak specially about this tomorrow; today I should only like to mention just one other thing.
The present era of human evolution, the fifth Post-Atlantean epoch, which exists for the development of the Spiritual or Consciousness Soul, contains manifold secrets. One of these is especially well guarded by those who believe that such truths should not yet be communicated to the humanity of to-day. This again is somewhat difficult. But since in the whole wide world there is no one else inclined to receive such things, you must really condescend to recognize them. In the course of this culture epoch, which began in the 15th century of our era, a remarkable longing began to make itself felt in men, along which lives chiefly in the subconsciousness, but must ever more and more be brought up into consciousness. This longing proceeds from a very definite cause.
I have often said that man is a twofold being. He is a being composed of many more than two parts; but particularly he is a twofold being, and consists as such as head and the rest of the body. The head is in particular that to which we should apply the Darwinian theory, the head is that which can be traced back to animal forms. During the Old Moon period man had animal forms, not those of the present animal kingdom, a more spiritual, etherical animal form. This has hardened into the human head, and now, when animals on the Earth are developing as they are, man is not developing under the same conditions as were suitable for the head, for that he has inherited; but, according to the requirements of the rest of his body. This however does not descend from the animals. The head descends from the animals, but only from the etheric animals. We therefore carry an animal nature in our head, but it is an etheric animality. That entered men's unconscious nature in the fifth post-Atlantean epoch. They noticed more and more that there is something of the animal in man, but they could no longer think of it as anything spiritual. They got it into their heads that man must have ‘animal’ feelings, and this culminated in the Darwinian theory of the descent of man from the animal. This was not only expressed in the Darwinian doctrine of descent. The animal has a different perception from man; it stands in a more intimate connection with things than does man. Man is the superior being of the Earth just because he has cut himself off from the things so as to be obliged to build a bridge again from himself to them. The animal experiences the outer world much more inwardly than does man; if it were philosophically inclined it would not speak of ‘boundaries of knowledge,’ because there are no boundaries to knowledge for the animal such as those of which man speaks; these only exist because of the higher organization of man. The animal feels in a sense the whole universe within it through its group-soul; it has no boundaries of knowledge, knows nothing of them. Man began to feel more and more that he carries an animal within him. He did not wish to conceived this relation spiritually, supersensibly, etherically; he thought man was related to the animals physically. He then wanted to have a knowledge subconsciously, such as the animal has. He was however obliged to prove that he could not have that. The animal lives with the ‘thing in itself.’ The ‘thing in itself’ is unknown to man, when he says: “I should really like to be an animal, I should like to be as well off as the animal, but I cannot be as well off.” To affirm a ‘thing in itself’which limits our knowledge, proceeds from the longing of man feel himself animal, while he yet knows that he cannot have such a knowledge as the animal. This is the secret of Kantism. What can be said of the boundaries of knowledge is intimately connected with the impulse of modern humanity towards the consciousness of the animal. The Ancients knew that the animal has no boundaries of knowledge; for that reason they considered it good fortune to understand, for example, the language of the animals. You all know the fable connected with this.
That is one thing which the Ancients knew: that the animal has no boundaries of knowledge, in the sense in which man has them in modern times. But they knew something else as well: they knew that the beings belonging to the Hierarchy of the Angels are free beings, beings with freedom of will. And they knew that man is on the way to become an Angel. When the Earth shall have completed the Jupiter-stage man will have reached the stage of the Angel. He is now on the way to freedom. Freedom is developing within him. But what is left for the epoch which is gradually appearing with the evolution of the Spiritual Soul, if mankind turns away from his evolution to the stage of the Angels? There remains only the thought: freedom is an illusion! Man, in respect to his activity, is subject to the necessities of nature. To the degree in which boundaries of knowledge are erected does man turn away from his development to freedom. This is intimately connected with what has appeared — only in a coarser way —in the declaration of the descent of man from the animals; whereas in reality man has a very complicated descent, as I have often explained.
Today I have burdened you with some of the more difficult concepts. But they were necessary, and tomorrow we shall be able to speak principally on the connection between the present earthly life in the physical body and the life between death and rebirth, from a certain point of view. The concepts will then not be so difficult; but what you were so good as to listen to today in respect to more difficult concepts will help you tomorrow in regard to others.